Victor Davis Hanson won't have it that the sky is falling and America's preeminence is fading and soon lost.
We are a naysaying culture. It helped me to read THE KNOWING-DOING GAP by Pfeffer and Sutton which makes the point that in our culture, people get ahead more by sounding smart than by being smart, and that one sounds smarter by criticizing and tearing down than by supporting and building up. We are also kind of anti-authority which helps to explain the strange guilt and ambivalence we feel about being the world's superpower.
One who stands for something is more easily assailed than one who stands for nothing, which explains most political campaigns in a nutshell.
But back on point, the greatness of America is that all of us is better and smarter and more capable than any of us, but only under conditions where any of us can contribute, and that unique framework is what will keep America great where other nations and causes and leaders and cultures fail.
Our rivals are weaker and America is far stronger than many think.
Take oil. With oil prices at nearly $70 a barrel, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez seem invincible as they rally anti-American feeling.
But if we find alternate energy sources, or reduce slightly our oil hunger, we can defang all three rather quickly. None of their countries have a middle class or a culture of entrepreneurship to discover and disseminate new knowledge.
Russia and Europe are shrinking. China is an aging nation of only children. The only thing the hard-working Chinese fear more than their bankrupt communist dictatorship is getting rid of it.
True, the economies of China and India have made amazing progress. But both have rocky rendezvous ahead with all the social and cultural problems that we long ago addressed in the 20th century.
The recent elections of Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France suggest that Europe's cheap anti-Americanism may be ending, and that our practices of more open markets, lower taxes and less state control are preferrable to the European status quo.
In truth, a never-stronger America is being tested as never before. The world is watching whether we win or lose in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Middle East is either going to reform or remain an oil-rich tribal mess that endangers the entire world.
A better way to assess our chances at maintaining our preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are the historical barometers of our nation's success or failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit -- or religion, tribe or class -- mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free, stable and transparent as the U.S.?
Try becoming a fully accepted citizen of China or Japan if you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running for national office in India from the lower caste. Try writing a critical op-ed in Russia or hiring a brilliant female to run a mosque, university or hospital in most of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart, iPods, the Internet or F-18s came from.
In the last 60 years, we have been warned in succession that new paradigms in racially pure Germany, the Soviet workers' paradise, Japan Inc. and now 24/7 China all were about to displace the United States. None did. All have had relative moments of amazing success -- but in the end none proved as resilient, flexible and adaptable as America.
That brings us to the United States' greatest strength: radical self-critique. We Americans are worrywarts, always believing we're on the verge of extinction. And so, to "renew," "reinvent" or "save" America, we whip ourselves up about "wars" on poverty, drugs and cancer; space "races;" missile "gaps;" literacy "crusades;" and
"campaigns" against litter, waste and smoking.
In other words, we nail-biters have always been paranoid that we must change and improve in order to survive. And thus we usually do -- just in time.